Students Grow, Audiences Enjoy
By Claire Heronemus ’17
The process of choosing shows for the coming season is an ongoing battle for theatre companies all over the world. You want to pick shows that are relevant, that audiences would enjoy. You want to pick a show that is beloved, but also something that will challenge you and your company. Carthage Theatre is no different. Here, Prof. Martin McClendon, Carthage Theatre Department Chair explains how the department tackles choosing their shows for each season. Take a look for the official release of the 2017-2018 season!
How do you and the faculty go about selecting a new season?
It’s a long, messy process! We are always trying to balance the needs of our student actors, designers, and crews to work on different kinds of theatrical styles, along with upholding the service we provide to our audience: to offer a balance of shows that entertain, but also inspire, illuminate, and also make us think about the big questions that we as a society grapple with.
Around when do you have to start selecting shows?
Our regular season takes between one and two years to come together. Our New Play Initiative, where we hire prominent playwrights to write world premiere shows for Carthage, can take longer. We often start conversations with these artists two to three years in advance.
Do you involve students in the season selection process? How do you go about that?
Yes, we’re very excited now that we are asking for input from theatre students. Students are able to suggest shows, providing a rationale for how they think their choice would help fulfill our mission. Those suggestions are collected by a certain date and discussed along with our faculty suggestions. The faculty are now submitting shows in the same public format, so students can get a preview of what we are thinking about.
What are some things you keep in mind while proposing shows for the next season?
I love telling untold stories, giving a voice to people who have not had the chance to speak for themselves. So I’m always looking for shows that reveal hidden truths and get us thinking about how we can use theatre to shine a light on issues that need to be addressed. But we also want to make sure that we provide fun, entertaining options as well. We also have a regular rotation of different genres that are important to work on.
What would you say you’re most excited about for the 2017-18 season?
I really enjoy working with our students and my fellow faculty to create magic! I get to design sets as well as direct the first show, Twin Set. Seeing all the creativity that is unleashed as we put together this very complex, multi-faceted and collaborative art form, is endlessly rewarding. Every show and every season brings new challenges, which keeps the job interesting!
What is the casting process like? When does that typically happen for your shows?
Casting for Twin Set will happen in May, because we need to begin work before Carthage is back in session. Usually casting will happen at least several weeks ahead of the start of rehearsals. It’s very complicated. We look at how well the actors have prepared their audition pieces, we note their suitability for the role, and as an academic institution, we examine how these roles will help students grow their skills, experience, and professional competency.
2017-18 SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT
Directed by Martin McClendon
Sep 29-30, Oct 1, Oct 5-7, 2017
“Betty and Meggy are 30-something sisters, happy working together, dressing like twins, and sharing an apartment. But when former schoolmate Marnie shows up needing help, Betty begins to question her past and Meggy starts fighting for her future.Can the love between these sisters survive the changing of their hearts once it is tested and torn apart?” - League of Chicago Theatres
Mother Courage and Her Children
Directed by Mary McDonald Kerr
Nov 3-5, 9-11, 2017
“Told over the course of 12 years, this story follows a woman, Mother Courage, and the difficulties she faces alongside her family during the 30 years war in this tragic, but funny, story. One of the most famous plays by Bertolt Brecht, this play focuses upon social issues and justice. It is one of nine plays that Brecht wrote in resistance to the rise of Fascism and Nazism and is considered the greatest anti-war play of all time.” - Claire Heronemus ’17
Directed by Herschel Kruger
Mar 16-18, 22-24, 2018
“The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications; Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth.” - Dramatists Play Service
Into the Woods
Directed by Neil Scharnick
Apr 27-29, May 3-5, 2018
“The 1987 Broadway Musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim (music & lyrics) and James Lapine (book & direction) combines the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the newly invented Baker and His Wife into a story of deceit, dreams fulfilled and broken, wishes, death, adultery, deception, magic and almost happily ever after.” - Bruce Janiga, Sondheim.com